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Andy Reed: Taking the lead

We need to ensure new governance strategies don’t restrict great leadership, says Andy Reed

by Andy Reed | Published in Sports Management 2019 issue 1
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Reed says the rush to appoint board members from outside the sector may have backfired / © shutterstock/Monkey Business Images
Reed says the rush to appoint board members from outside the sector may have backfired/ © shutterstock/Monkey Business Images

It has been quite a time for leaders across our sector stepping down recently – Sport England, UKsport, the Sport and Recreation Alliance and the BPA, for example. It’s not just at senior management level – in the boardroom too, the new Sports Governance code has meant quite a bit of experience has been lost in a short time as those who had served the maximum term limits had to step down.

The loss of CEOs at Sport England, UK Sport, Sport and Recreation Alliance and Sported also means some of the progress we had made on diversity across the sector could be lost in a short space of time.

Leaders moving on is not always a bad thing as the sector continues to evolve and change with the shifting sands of political and socio-economic times. However, with the new emphasis on boards bringing in ‘independent’ voices and more skills-based members, have we lost something along the way? A number of CEOs and chairs who were keen advocates of this have admitted to me recently that the rush to appoint outsiders may have tipped the balance too far in the other direction.

Demand the best
When I carried out a review of the sector around CSPs and their communities for the sports minister I found one of the biggest issues facing the ability of the sector to respond to the new government strategy was the need for greater and more consistent leadership across the sector.

If I’m being honest, the desire to bring in outsiders from other sectors has led to, at best, mixed results, with a few recent high profile individual chairs being forced out of office.

I have been fortunate over the years to have been around the leadership of many industries, and whilst we have some great individuals in our sector, we also have too much mediocrity.

I can assure you I don’t count my former life in Westminster as an example of good leadership – but rather as an extreme example of what happens when any organisation lacks proper leadership.

While I spend much of my time inside the sector, I have managed to build and maintain a portfolio of interests in other sectors and these remain much more collaborative and demonstrate impressive leadership against difficult and challenging backdrops.

I still have to spend too much of my time trying to encourage parts of the sport sector to spend less time criticising other parts and to concentrate on creating their own excellence.

The right balance
A recent World Economic Forum Report suggested that 65 per cent of children currently starting primary school will be doing jobs when they leave school that currently don’t exist. Our future planning and leadership needs to be constantly ready for the increasing pace of change heading our way whilst maintaining a level of stability.

Like any successful sporting team, our leadership of the sector needs to be finely balanced between those with plenty of relevant corporate memory and fresh new blood with ideas and innovation, and from both outside and inside the sector. If we don’t manage this we will continue to be held back in our goal to create an active nation. We have a short window in which to get this right. For the sake of a healthy nation we need to create some genuine collaborative leadership and leave the egos behind.

Andy Reed is the founder of Sports Think Tank, former MP for Loughborough, and chair of SAPCA. sportsthinktank.com

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